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‘After giving up my dance career with the Royal Ballet in 1965, I joined the Theatre Design course at the Slade School under the wonderful designer and teacher, Nicholas Georgiadis. The seed was sown and 20 years later, 1987, it grew into the Linbury Prize for Stage Design at the Royal National Theatre.’

Anya Sainsbury CBE, Founder of The Linbury Prize for Stage Design

The Linbury Trust was established by Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG, and his wife Anya, Lady Sainsbury CBE, the former ballerina, Anya Linden.

Anya Linden in the role of The Girl in Kenneth Macmillen's ballet "Solitaire" with dancers of The Royal Ballet.
Photograph by Roger Wood Copyright: Roger Wood/Royal Opera House/ArenaPAL
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This biennial Prize, the most important of its kind in the UK, celebrates and fosters the best emerging stage designers through collaboration with professional theatre, dance and opera companies.

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Linbury Prize



The Linbury Prize is a unique opportunity for emerging designers and offers twelve prize recipients the chance to work with some of the UK's leading theatre, opera and dance companies.

Founded in 1987 by Anya Sainsbury, The Linbury Prize for Stage Design has helped discover and launch the careers of over 200 talented young stage designers. It offers an unparrelled opportunity for exposure and success at a pivotal moment in their careers.

The first exhibition for emerging designers took place in 1987 at the Theatre Museum, arranged by Anya Sainsbury. Later, more conversations between Anya Sainsbury and friends in the theatre design world led to the idea of creating a biennial prize for young designers. In 1989, having approached the then Director of the National Theatre, Richard Eyre, the first Linbury Biennial Prize for Stage Design was held at the NT. The enthusiastic endorsement of subsequent NT Directors Trevor Nunn, Nicholas Hytner and Rufus Norris, means that the Prize is still held here. This unique project continues to champion young designers today. Over 30 years, more than 1200 young designers have entered the Linbury Prize for Stage Design. 

The prize recipients of each competition receive a bursary together with a design placement with a major company. Companies that have collaborated with the Prize in recent years include Birmingham Opera, Headlong, National Theatre of Scotland, Lyric Hammersmith and Scottish Dance Theatre.


The Linbury Prize for Stage Design is funded entirely by the Linbury Trust, a charitable trust
founded in 1973 by Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover KG (John Sainsbury), and his wife Anya, Lady Sainsbury, CBE, the former ballerina Anya Linden. The name 'Linbury' is thus derived from the names Linden and Sainsbury.

For more information about The Linbury Trust please visit the website at

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Rudolph Nureyev and Anya Linden, Flower Festival, Royal Ballet 1962
Photog Copyright: Houston Rogers / Victoria and Albert Museum London.
‘The Linbury Prize is a brilliant platform for young design talent. Stage design is a crucial aspect in any theatre production and the Prize has been essential in giving many emerging designers the recognition and support they need as they build their careers. We are thrilled to continue to support this unique and invaluable experience as it marks its 30th year at the National Theatre.’
Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre

‘From little acorns – oak trees grow! Being part of Linbury from the start has been the most fulfilling and creative project. A small idea born in the mid-1960’s grew to maturity when we brought the prize to the National Theatre and involved UK producing companies. The Prize is the job!’

Professor Pamela Howard OBE


‘The Linbury Prize has profoundly influenced the work of theatre designers worldwide, who have, since it’s inception, made their first productions in producing houses throughout the UK. Anya Sainsbury’s inspiring philanthropy has created a prize that is synonymous with the celebration of both craft and opportunity.’

Caro Newling OBE, Chair of the Linbury Prize for Stage Design 2010 - 2023

‘So many outstanding designers have emerged through the Linbury Prize that it’s impossible to know where to start in hymning its praises – it has become indispensable to British theatre; and it was one of my happiest duties at the National to host the annual exhibition, which is invariably exciting and a source of undiluted optimism about the future of stage design.’
Sir Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theatre (2003 – 2013)

‘If the Linbury Prize is universally respected – and it is – it’s because, for 30 years it’s been an essential shop window for young designers, giving a matchless opportunity for established directors, designers and producers to see the work of emerging talents.’

Sir Richard Eyre, Director of the National Theatre (1988-97)

The Prize is supported by a group of Advocates, all eminent figures in the theatre world who endorse the Linbury Prize’s aims.

Mark Baldwin, Simon Russell Beale CBE, Sue Blane MBE, Edward Bond, Matthew Bourne OBE, Christopher Bruce CBE, Alison Chitty OBE, Bob Crowley, Stephen Daldry CBE, Siobhan Davies CBE, Sir Anthony Dowell CBE, Sir Richard Eyre CBE, Rupert Goold, Sir David Hare, Tim Hatley, Prof Pamela Howard, David Hockney CH RA OM, Stuart Hopps, Richard Hudson, Nicholas Hytner, Richard Jones, David Lan, John Macfarlane, Geoffrey Marsh, Jonathan Mills, John Napier, Sir Trevor Nunn CBE, Alistair Spalding CBE, Sir John Tusa, Anthony Ward, Nicholas Wright.

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